What’s this? He pulls my scrapbook onto his lap and opens it. He chuckles into his fist, his eyes growing warm. I can’t believe you still have The Gremlin Files. I’m so glad you brought this. I blush at the silly name he has for my scrapbook. I sit down next to him and he leans in so that I can see as he leafs through the pages. His arm brushes against mine and I revel in the heat coming from his touch. I try to tell myself this touch is innocent. We were best friends as children, we could be just friends again. But as my body leans in next to his, I know there’s nothing just friends about the way I want to nuzzle my nose along his jaw line and inhale his scent.
Excuse me, I stammer between coughs. I’m sorry. Of course you are. I manage to get my breathing back under control, but I can tell my face is flushed. Embarrassed isn’t a strong enough word for how I feel. He has a girlfriend!? I want to die.I think back to when he gave me the tour of his home. The place is amazing and beautifully decorated, but there were no photos of him with a woman, no flowers or feminine touches anywhere. There wasn’t even a cozy nook where a girl might curl up and read a book or fashion magazine. And when Tatianna showed up, sure they were familiar with each other, but not in any way that even hinted at romance. Their eyes didn’t linger on one another’s, and from how far apart they sat, I just assumed she was an employee. Heck, the house is big enough that he must have several employees living here.
Also, I’d been so lost, deep in conversation with Collins, that I’d hardly noticed how beautiful she was. Now that I really look at her for the first time, it is obvious this is the type of woman he would date. She's tall, slender and gorgeous. In fact, she looks familiar. I realize that she's Tatianna Markov, the woman whose photo was on the cover of every Vogue magazine I saw at the airport kiosk.My stomach sinks as I look at both of them—a tricky feat since they are on opposite ends of the room. But while my gaze floats between them I see some familiar mannerisms. Both have matching perfect posture. Just looking at them makes me sit up straighter. Their faces are harsh and cool with neutral expressions that give nothing away. That’s a new look for Collins. He never used to look so cold. I think back to our younger years. He was always guy-serious, but it was easy to put a smile on his face, one of my favorite things to do. The look on his face now is stern and immobile. I’m glad it isn’t directed at me, but it's sad to see him this way at all.Tatianna tosses her hair back and turns to me. So, what brings you to Los Angeles?
My eyes dart to Collins, but he manages to hold his stoic look, unfazed by her question. In a panic, I try to take a sip of my drink but it’s empty.Collins gets up. I’ll get you another one. He steps over to the bar and sets up three more glasses, making another round for each of us.
I take a deep breath, anything to stall. I don’t like lying, but there is no way I’m going to tell this woman I came here in the hopes of marrying her boyfriend. It was so stupid of me to come. I wish I’d taken time to think about what I was doing instead of just rushing online to find the cheapest ticket. It hadn't even occurred to me that he might not be single. Although I’ve always been a bit out of control whenever Collins was involved. Why should now be any different?
But I’m not going to share any of this with Tatianna. She would just laugh me out of the house if I did that. Her eyes are on me, waiting for me to respond.I’ll be right back, he said.
And he left me standing there like I’d forgotten how to breathe or walk. Raising my hand, I touched the center of my forehead as my heart kicked around in my chest.What had we done in that bed?
We hadn’t had actual sex, but that was the closest two people could come to doing it with their clothes on. I had no idea what was happening, but this morning we’d crossed the line of friendship. I didn’t regret it—quite the opposite, but . . . but outside of that dark room and bed there was a past.Sighing, I moved further into the house, and it was like taking a walk through memories. Everything seemed the same as it had before they’d moved. A few things were in different places, but it was basically the same. I could easily remember racing through the rec room, plopping down on the beanbags that used to be in front of the TV, and grabbing a game controller.